As part the agency’s push to commercialise the International Space Station, NASA has announced it will begin offering $50 million “Private Astronaut Missions” to the International Space Station.
During a press conference earlier today, NASA brass announced several initiatives aimed at “opening up the International Space Station for commercial business.” One of the initiatives was the accommodation of two 30-day private astronaut missions to the station per year. According to a CNBC report, the missions will cost potential customers an estimated $50 million with the agency receiving $35,000 of that each night a customer spends aboard the station.
The missions will be launched aboard one of the two commercial launch vehicles being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, namely the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing Starliner. The companies will be responsible for ensuring the customer meets medical standards and is sufficiently trained and certified on station procedures.
NASA has stated that the first private astronaut mission could be launched as early as 2020. However, this will depend on if either of the two commercial vehicles is certified for crewed missions in time. Currently, both companies appear to be aiming to launch a first crewed demonstration mission in 2020, which makes it unlikely a private citizen would be launched aboard either of the vehicles the same year.
In February, Roscosmos announced that it too would begin offering commercial missions to the International Space Station. However, unlike NASA, Roscosmos has performed commercial missions to the station in the past. It was forced to put the program on hold after the US retired the Space Shuttle in 2011. Roscosmos plans to resume these mission by 2021.